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Study Session

Minutes
Monday, January 31, 2011

MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION

ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pioneer Hall, 73 Winburn Way

 

 

Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:33 p.m. in Pioneer Hall.

 

Councilor Slattery, Morris, Silbiger, Voisin, and Chapman were present.  Councilor Lemhouse arrived at 6:40 p.m.

 

The Look Ahead agenda item was moved to number 2 on the agenda.   

 

1.         Does Council have feedback on the staff suggestions on how to address the Council’s goal related to homelessness?   

City Administrator Martha Bennett provided a presentation on the City Council’s Homelessness Goal that included:

 

City Council Goal:  Appoint an ad-hoc committee to make recommendations to the City Council regarding issues related to homelessness.  Include major government, non-profit, and faith community partners on the committee.  Request:

·         Short-term recommendations no later than May 1, 2011 to address the more urgent issues that confront the community.

·         Long-term recommendations on how the City and partner organizations can work together.

Objectives for Study Session:

·         Forward specific “short-term” issues to ad-hoc committee.  Ad-hoc committee will be asked to recommend by May actions that the Council can take.

·         Forward issues that the ad-hoc committee should discuss after May 1 for the long-term plan.  Long-term plan will focus on the community’s response and will outline a recommendation for the City’s role.

·         Discuss composition of ad-hoc committee.

What the Study Session won’t do

·         Duplicate work done by other groups (e.g. Jackson County 10-year Plan, or the task force that has begun meeting).

·         Attempt to explain and/or resolve problem of homelessness in Ashland.

Homelessness is a range:  Least Severe – Most Severe

Least Severe – Easiest to Address:

·         Doubling Up.

·         Couch Surfing.

·         Shelters, Car Camping, Transitional Housing.  

Most Severe – More Difficult to Address:

·         Chronic Homelessness (long-term, local).

·         Chronic Homelessness (long-term, transient).

Ms. Bennett explained it was more difficult for the homeless to get homes once they were homeless for six months and that Ashland was known as a place where it was easy to be homeless.

 

Issues faced downtown/parks

Least Severe – Easiest to Address:

·         Hanging Out/Congregating – legal with few conflicts.

·         Panhandling – Protected speech.  Usually not a problem.

Most Severe – More Difficult to Address:

·         Aggressive Panhandling.

·         Blocking Sidewalks.

·         Disruptive and disorderly behavior.

Short Term – Campgrounds

·         Two Major Options:

o   City just designate area with no controls.

o   City Lean (inexpensively) to non-profit.

·         Example: Dignity Village

Police Chief Terry Holderness explained a campground could be a designated area and the City could own the property and have someone manage operations.  If a campground was heavily regulated it would not get a lot of usage.  If it was not regulated, it generated complaints.  Research showed the only successful example was Dignity Village that was a non-profit made up of homeless people who run the programs and lease the area from the city.   

 

Short-Term – Car sleeping

·         Some communities have designated areas for people to sleep in their cars.

·         Not permanent camps.  Set hours for nighttime only.

·         Needs to combine with sanitation.

Short Term – Exclusionary Areas

·         Designate areas where people who receive multiples offenses violations can be excluded.

·         Already happens in Lithia Park.  OSF also has excluded people from the property they control.

Chief Holderness explained exclusions from Lithia Park were rare and occurs 5-6 times a year where an individual is trespassed for multiple offenses.  Once trespassed, a person cannot return to that property for a specific amount of time or they will be arrested.  Individuals are notified prior to being trespassed.  Any property owner can ban someone from his or her private property.    

 

·         Request the committee discuss the downtown.

Short Term – panhandling collection boxes & vouchers

·         Several cities have created an alternative way for people to donate rather than giving directly to people who are panhandling (Laguna Beach, Denver, Virginia Beach, and Santa Cruz).

·         Requires non-profit partner to collect funds and spend them on service for the homeless.

Another idea was provide a book of vouchers the public could purchase and give to individuals instead of cash.  

 

Short Term – Sidewalk ordinance

·         Some cities have passed laws limiting people from sitting or lying on the sidewalk (Seattle, Santa Cruz).

·         Portland’s law was struck down in 2009.

·         Short Term - Other ideas were a recommendation could be reached by May 1, 2011?

Additions included having the ad-hoc committee work on strategic restrooms and showers for the short-term and possibly using the Grove as a center for the food bank, youth at risk, homeless youth, or those who want to get out of homelessness.  Also suggested were creating a clearinghouse of services currently available, looking at replacing Interfaith Care Community of Ashland (ICCA) services and researching exclusionary areas.  Another suggestion was establishing a one-day annual medical screening.  Staff noted the annual Project Homeless Connect event was similar but a large undertaking.  Currently La Clinica Healthcare collaborated with St. Vincent De Paul to provide medical screening for the homeless in Medford.  They were considering adding monthly medical screenings in Ashland.  Another suggestion was focus on what was realistic to achieve between now and May, determine funding and available resources, and then work backwards from there.

 

Items Council did not want the ad-hoc committee to address was a campground on City property and car sleeping.  Another opposed the idea of having an ad-hoc committee at all and thought replacing ICCA services was not City business.

 

Long Term – Outreach

·         Increase outreach to homeless to connect them to services.

·         Community Works does for youth.

·         Tried in many cities.

Chief Holderness explained the City of Santa Cruz spends approximately $300,000 a year on their Outreach Program and there was a significant reduction in homelessness.  However, at the same time they instituted a sidewalk ordinance and set up donation boxes. An Outreach Program was expensive and required trained social workers.  Its primary focus was transitioning people out of homelessness and not helping people find services.  The City of Ashland initiated a couple efforts similar to an Outreach Program in the past that were not successful.     

 

Long Term – Coordinate Community Assistance

·         City could fund a single non-profit (including fro the faith community) to coordinate primary assistance.

Chief Holderness was the Project Coordinator for a similar program in the City of Fontana, CA that coordinated services and helped people navigate the different agencies.  The program was geared for people in transition and not for maintaining homelessness.  The shorter period of time an individual was homeless, the less likely they will become chronic.  Once they become chronically homeless, it was difficult for them to get back into society.

 

Long Term Strategy Ideas

·         Recreate a day drop in center.

·         Increase the supply of supportive housing with a broad range of support services.

Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid explained most of the permanent supportive housing was intended for people with physical, mental/emotional, drug and alcohol issues that required additional support.  The program was progressive and helped the chronically homeless get into housing with wrap around support services to help them remain in housing.  Current examples of supportive housing were Living Opportunities in Medford and the Star Thistle Apartments in Ashland.  Both offered similar services on a limited basis. 

 

·         Look at whether the “housing first” model would work.

Housing First provided housing to stabilize an individual’s life and then work on their other issues.  The Housing First program in the City of Seattle, WA noted a 50% reduction in chronic homeless people returning to homelessness.  It also saved the City of Seattle $2,500 a month per person in services that would have been rendered to those individuals had they remained on the streets in emergency services and hospital care. 

 

·         Transitional Housing program.

The Transitional Housing program was similar to SRO except it had a 2-year period.  The City of Medford currently had one program in place called the Salvation Army Hope House.  Transitional Housing was intended for people newly or chronically homeless with a focus on families. The program used mandated classes throughout the two-year period and created a savings plan to help people gain self-sufficiency. 

 

·         Provide SRO (Single Room Occupancy) housing in Ashland.

SRO housing was good for the chronically homeless and people with mental health issues or disabilities because it allowed them to live independently.  It included community involvement and case management.

 

·         Case Management.

Ad-Hoc Committee

·         1 or 2 members currently involved in the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter.

·         1 member representing free meal providers’1 member representing outreach to homeless.

·         1 or 2 representing retail and visitor businesses.

·         2 or 3 citizens at large.

·         1 or 2 members representing other government agencies.

·         1 or 2 members representing non-profits that provide transitional services.

·         1 member representing non-profits that provide prevention services.

Proposed Timeline

·         Committee would be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by Council on February 15, 2011.

·         Committee would have roughly 8 weeks to make recommendation on “short-term” issues.

·         Committee would not begin working on long-term issues until May 1 recommendation is made to Council.

 

Council questioned having an ad-hoc committee and were concerned the suggestions were a “laundry list” that did not provide clear direction for a committee.  The focus should be on what Council wants to accomplish within the City’s means.  Other comments were against short-term solutions and wanted to focus on the long-term.  An additional concern was providing services might be enabling and make it attractive to be homeless in Ashland.  Comments supporting the ad-hoc committee noted the list were lean suggestions that would meet the basic needs of shelter, sleep, toilets and shower facilities and the committee would be comprised of individuals that could appropriately address short-term and long term issues.

 

Staff clarified the suggestions were put together to help address short-term issues with people who were chronically homeless and their impacts.  The long term was to try to move people from the more severe range to the less severe and ensure people had access to housing.  The list was gaps that other communities were providing. 

 

Ms. Bennett would write a charge for an ad-hoc committee that Council could discuss during a regular Council meeting.  Mayor Stromberg would provide names of who was best suited to be on the committee.

 

2.         Look Ahead Review

City Administrator Martha Bennett reviewed items on the Look Ahead.

 

 

Meeting adjourned at 7:08 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,                                

Dana Smith

Assistant to the City Recorder

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